In a crowded gym in Iowa, three people huddle up to decide a game of chance. An object is tossed in the air and all eyes are on it. Knowing that their team needs to win this, the object is caught, and the game begins.
Believe it or not, this is not a basketball game at your local gym, but a part of Iowa’s democratic process—an actual coin toss for delegates.
Iowa, the first major contest holder of the presidential primary season, is one of few states that still hold caucuses. Unlike primaries, voters gather at local caucus meetings to discuss and vote on the candidates. It has historically been viewed as a time for lively, educated debates where voters can make a case for their candidate to their community.
Overall winners from these contests have almost consistently indicated who would eventually win the nomination, until 2020. But a large democratic field, multiple coin tosses for ties and pushing voters to realign to viable candidates have all made this 2020 caucus the worst yet. It needs to go.
For as much as America touts its democratic ability, it is astonishing that caucuses still go on. Even with a low caucus turnout, the stage is still set for the nation by going first in the nomination process, giving this method more power and influence over the outcome than it should be worth.
This is where 2020 became a red herring. While Bernie Sanders won the popular vote in Iowa, Pete Buttigieg won the state for delegates. How did this happen? Buttigieg won over more counties by converting voters who’s candidate didn’t meet the viability threshold—and winning some of those infamous coin tosses.
In its nature, the caucus demands that impassioned, outgoing voters, who are at least modestly political, to participate. Its core focus requires voters to engage with each other. Pair this niche demographic with low turnout and a 91% white participation rate, and Buttigieg winning somehow makes sense—but only for Iowa. Current statistics show the United States to be only 60% white.
So not only does Iowa’s voter demographic not represent the nation, but it was so off the mark that Buttigieg dropped out narrowly a month later to endorse a candidate who under performed in the state, Joe Biden (spoiler alert: he’s now a frontrunner). Essentially, the caucuses inflated a failing campaign by making voters’ second choice seem like first.
It doesn’t matter to the nation that Buttigieg’s lead was by a thin margin—winning is winning. The democractic process should be treated more delicately from now on. While the primaries are not without their faults, there are no fall back plans that confuse a candidate’s real viability. The caucuses have lost their use and need to go.